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Author Topic: 1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report  (Read 366 times)

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report
« on: December 08, 2019, 07:57:32 PM »
AT LONG LAST HERE'S MY REPORT ON THE CHARLES BAY CUSTOM R13

It's quite difficult to find original prices for clarinets, as most contemporary advertisements do not have the prices listed, and half the time store catalogs didn't either.

So most of the time we have to go from personal recollections. I recently acquired a 1997 Buffet RC with silver plated keys (considered to be a "evolution" to the R13 - but completely failed to overtake the R13 in market share) that was purchased new for $2500 in 1997 - about $4,000 in 2019 dollars.
This is the exact price a new Buffet R13 with silver keys sells for in 2019 - so we can assume that RC and R13 models were priced about the same.

This Charles Bay Custom R13 was purchased for $3,000 in 1997. This tells me that Bay additions probably were an additionally $500, or 20%. This might seem like a lot, but consider the fact that simple silver-plating on the keys of a modern Buffet R13 boosts the cost from $3600 to $4000 - an additional 11%, and the clarinet is functionally identical.

I would estimate the barrel/mouthpiece set to be about $200 new, so you really only are paying $300, or 12% premium for Bay's customizations (tone hole alterations and, adjustments, and other minor modifications), which certainly sounds like a reasonable price to me.

Here are all of the customizations I can see on the clarinet (going from top to bottom)
Charles Bay Duckbill mouthpiece (hand-dated to 1997)
Charles Bay composite barrel
specially beveled register key cork pad
undercut tone hole on F# pad
Charles Bay custom extension-thing on F# ring
left-chamfer on F# hole
slight chamfer on C hole
"Charles Bay Customized Clarinets" metal badge on rear side of lower joint
Charles Bay custom thumbrest
Shaved-down upper post of 3-ring key
Widening of crow's-feet notches
chamfering on low Ab, F#, F, and E tone holes

Upon comparison with the similarly-aged and constructed Buffet RC (which for my purposes I assumed to be physically identical to the R13) I found that:
1. The Bay thumbrest is amazing
2. The Bay F# ring extension is pointless and gets in the way. I'm sure it's great for some people, but I didn't find it useful at all. You need to keep half of your finger over the ring-hole anyways, so the extension sort of makes it even more difficult to play higher, altissimo-register notes.
3. The side-chamfer on the C hole is great for smooth finger movements
4. The shaved-down post on the 3-ring key is sort of interesting. It's a sharp edge that I guess could be an issue after a crazy extended play session, but I never in my life even noticed it was a problem. I suppose it's a great solution to a problem that nobody knew they had.
5. The chamfering on the lowest notes is very useful. It gives better projection and a clearer sound to the low notes. Chamfering of a tone hole allows the air to escape the hole at a lower height than before, allowing it to escape earlier, and hence reducing any stuffiness in sound. [Keep in mind this might just be a placebo effect with the visuality of the chamfered holes. I don't have an solid evidence to back up my claim]

I found virtually no difference between the Charles Bay barrel and the R13 barrel. I suppose it's a tad lighter, if that makes any difference.

The widening of the crow's feet notches are absolutely pointless. They actually look somewhat haphazardly done, so I don't really get it. Maybe Bay wanted to practice the chamfering on a less-visible part of the clarinet to get accustomed to the wood's character? Who knows...

The Duckbill mouthpiece is good, but I actually prefer my Rico Reserve X5. I felt like I got a somewhat better response out of the Reserve than the Duckbill, but maybe I'm just not used to it.

I think the main differences worth paying for are the thumbrest and the chamfered tone holes [again, placebo?]. Charles Bay's touch can really be seen in the chamfering, as it takes an expert to be able to do this correctly. It's easy to overdo it and then there's literally impossible to reverse the damage.

David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: 1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2019, 07:58:52 PM »
.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline windydankoff

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Re: 1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2019, 04:31:05 PM »
amazing! But your photos don't show the "bill" of the duckbill mouthpiece. Does it look different?
Windy at BLACK • HOLE Clarinets
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http://www.windydankoff.com/black-hole-clarinets.html

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: 1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2019, 04:32:17 PM »
Strangely enough, it doesn't look like I took a picture of the mouthpiece. Best I can describe it, it looks like a duckbill from the side with a more pronounced slope(?)
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline philpedler

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Re: 1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2019, 02:49:18 PM »
It would take a player with particular tastes and money to spend to buy a clarinet decked out by an expert with particular tastes.

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: 1997 Charles Bay Customized R13 Report
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2019, 12:27:13 PM »
I ended up selling it for $1830, including shipping. The buyer actually called me up on the phone a couple times and said that he really enjoyed it and loved the heck out of it.

Good for him!

Although like Phil said, I think most discerning professionals would discern against something customized for someone else. Kind of like buying a suit fitted for another person, I suppose.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States